The Senate Standing Committee on Information, Broadcasting and National Heritage avowed that Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) action against journalist Shahid Masood of ARY channel was a violation of law and code of conduct. The committee chaired by Senator Kamil Ali Agha held on Monday expressed serious concerns over the “restrictions” on freedom of speech and took up the matter of allegation against Shahid Masood.
The Chairman Committee said the PEMRA violated the rules by imposing a penalty on Shahid Masood without taking a proper explanation which tantamounts to restricting the freedom of speech. He said PEMRA does not take any action against the channels which air Indian programmes and are thus promoting India’s stance and culture.
While advocating the process of penalty, he said the committee is not against imposition of penalty but the aggrieved party must be given a chance to defend himself. PEMRA needs to be apolitical, he added. The committee observed that the briefing given by the Chairman PEMRA Absar Alam, was not enough to prove Shahid Masood’s guilt. He further said that the Ministry of Information didn’t provide media’s Code of Conduct to the Supreme Court during this case proceeding, which was formulated by all stakeholders together.
The committee also observed that 216 complaints have been received against a TV channel, however Pemra didn’t take any action against it.
Chairman Pemra Absar Alam justifying the actions of PEMRA said that the Authority takes action against all violators. As far as the above mentioned case is concerned, he said, the action was taken when Supreme Court took notice over it, adding that Pemra issued a show cause notice after the programme and the matter was sent to the Sindh authorities. He said that action was taken out of contempt of court fear.
Further explaining the matter, he said Shahid Masood violated Code of Conduct during his programme right after the kidnapping of Awais Ali Shah, the son of Chief Justice Sindh, of which the court took notice. He said that the complete transmission or the channel cannot be shut down as employees suffer as well. However the committee expressed its disagreement over Chairman Pemra’s explanation, Senator Rubina Khalid called it an inappropriate act in which a single person suffers instead of TV channel and its owner, since, no content can be on aired without permission of the owner. The committee emphasised on formulating editorial committees in every channel, and directed Pemra to take action if any channel does not constitute the editorial committee.